This month, on the eve of graduation, I decided that I wanted to highlight the fruits of our labors by having a graduating senior write about her experiences.

Katy Zink came to MSU from Huntington Woods, MI. She is graduating with a Human Biology major and Bioethics minor from Lyman Briggs College. She’s planning to take a gap year to travel and work as an OB/GYN Medical Assistant while she applies to medical schools.

By: Katy Zink, Human Biology major from Lyman Briggs College

Raised with the Notre Dame fight song as my lullaby and echoing my dad’s cries of “Go green! Go white!” I was introduced at a young age to the excitement and seemingly otherworldliness of college. Football Saturdays were my normal growing up, and tailgate Saturdays were even better. As we passed around footballs, convinced our parents to buy us foam fingers and pom pons, my love of college grew. When I played house with friends growing up, college seemed like this far away goal; just out of my grasp, I willed it to come sooner so I could enter the elite club that had also experienced the Best Four Years. I too would stay up late to study and party. I too would live in a single room with my roommate, who would obviously become my best friend. I too would get to claim an institution and its traditions as my own.

Now here I sit, after my final college class. I made it. I did it. Michigan State is my institution, and its traditions are my own. I did in fact become best friends with my roommate (thank you Facebook). I grew and struggled and stressed and partied and laughed and cried and survived. Sitting here at twenty-two, I am shocked at how naïve I was that first day on campus. Setting up my dorm, I cried when my family left, and I texted my parents for the next week wondering when those Best Four Years would start. Terrified of change and uncomfortable by the idea of truly being on my own, I told my parents they had not prepared me for the downs of college when they sang the Best Four Years’ praises.

Now, I know they could not have prepared me for my college experience. They could not have prepared me for the fact that I would be moved from campus to online schooling due to a global pandemic my second semester freshman year. They did not know that the virus ravaging our world and vaccine denialism would become the real-life examples of my biology and ethics classes my sophomore year. They did not know that junior year would bring my diagnosis with a lifelong chronic illness and the start of treatment to save my kidneys, my fertility, my joints, my heart. They did not know that my senior year, when everything had finally returned to normal, when the masks were removed and my symptoms mitigated, there would be a mass shooting on my campus, in MY home, killing my peers and my sense of security. They did not know, nor could they have.

My Best Four Years were simply different. It would be easy to resent the hardship and heartache that bombarded each year in East Lansing, but instead I would like to mark my Best Four Years in a different way.

My Best Four Years brought me my classes; focused on science and how the body works and the ethical WHY with every decision science makes. Though my degree is a Bachelor of Science, I started and ended my college academic career in an anthropology class -- another reason I love my program, my goals, my studies. Looking at the side of science that affects people has opened my eyes to a new world of issues and solutions that I was previously unaware of. I had bioethical debates in the basement of Holmes Hall about organ transplant and surrogacy and ran experiments from home during lockdown that looked at the circadian rhythms of arugula when grown in an environment with light pollution, as a method of addressing urban food deserts. I worked on Honors Projects that let me explore in the ways I wanted to, and I loved it.

My Best Four Years brought me school spirit. I got ready for my first football game as a student on the Friday of move-in week. I changed my outfit five times running to my neighbors’ rooms for their approval and texted my older brother for guidance on what I was “supposed” to do. I walked 20,000 steps that day. Walking into the stadium, a student section bracelet on my wrist, I stepped out of the concourse into the light to a sea of green and white. The crowd roared, students stood, and I learned the cheers and when to do them. Every game thereafter I immersed myself in the sea of students, and I finally understood the joy my dad felt when someone said, “Go white!” back. I understood my mom loving football Saturdays and being seated among the hordes of peers. The feeling of oneness in a sea of thousands was a feeling like no other.

Most importantly, my Best Four Years brought me my people. My core group of amazing friends, brought together solely by chance on the fourth floor of West Holmes Hall. Our dynamic was formed out of necessity and blossomed out of nights spent trying to figure out chemistry homework, where to go out that weekend, and how to spend all the extra time we had now that we were on our own. As we grew up, we had our moments and tensions, like everyone does, and we lost one or two people along the way. However, the core group stuck. I look back on pictures of memories from freshman year and can walk upstairs in my college house to laugh about them with the people I experienced them with. We have watched each other cry over boys, school, and life. We have celebrated each other’s accomplishments, diagnoses, and successes. We have laughed, danced, maybe drank a bit too much, and survived together. Those amazing people who pulled me through dark times and cheered me through good times; they are my Best Four Years.

I failed. I succeeded. I cried. I danced. I taught. I learned. I lived.

Thank you MSU. 

Feedback and suggestions, especially from the MSU community, welcome: email

Mark Largent is the Associate Provost for Undergraduate Education and Dean of Undergraduate Studies at Michigan State University.